The Ultimate Fate of the Battleships of Pearl Harbor
September 28, 2017
We know that during the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were eight battleships lined up along Battleship Row. The battleships of Pearl Harbor, the main targets of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s striking force, were vital assets of the Pacific Fleet that if lost, would leave the US Navy crippled.
Though Japan tried, it wasn’t able to destroy the fleet entirely. Each of the battleships that were present at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 has her own stories and legacies, some far more tragic than others. Rather than just look at what happened to them immediately after Pearl Harbor, let’s take a look at how the battleships of Pearl Harbor ended their service with the US Navy.
Before going down the list, it’s important to remember that two of the battleships of Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona (BB-39) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37), didn’t survive the attack. The Arizona was one of the first vessels to sink and was deemed too damaged for recovery and repair. She was left where she sank in the harbor, and is today commemorated by the USS Arizona Memorial, built directly above. The Oklahoma was raised, but was found to be too damaged to be repaired. On her journey to a scrap yard in California, a storm caused the Oklahoma to be lost to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) survived the war but not without being on the receiving end of a major blast in early August of 1945. After undergoing repairs from extensive damage from a torpedo at Okinawa, the Pennsylvania was ordered to Long Beach where she became a target for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests. On August 29th, 1946, she was decommissioned, and in February, 1948, after surviving multiple blasts, she was sunk off Kwajalein Lagoon.
The USS California (BB-44) had no grand ending to her career. After surviving World War II, she was placed out of commission in reserve in February of 1947. On March 1st, 1959, she was struck from the Naval Register and sold for scrap to the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation four months later.
Like the Pennsylvania, the USS Nevada (BB-36) was turned into a target ship during the Bikini Atoll atomic blasts. During Operation Crossroads, she was a target for “Able,” the first of two tests. Two bombs failed to sink the Nevada, now painted a reddish-orange color to be distinguishable among other targets. On August 29th, 1946, she was returned to Pearl Harbor and decommissioned.
After the lengthy and active service of the USS Tennessee (BB-43) during World War II, this decorated battleship was decommissioned on February 14th, 1947. For 12 years she sat inactive until, in 1959, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. Four months later, Bethlehem Steel Company bought her for scrap.
After arriving in Seattle on December 17th, 1945, the USS Maryland (BB-46) was ordered to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to be listed as inactive. Two years later, in April of 1947, she was decommissioned. Another 12 years passed before the Learner Company of Oakland, CA purchased her for scrap.
USS West Virginia
After serving in Operation Magic Carpet, which brought troops home from the Pacific, the USS West Virginia (BB-48) was listed as inactive in February of 1946 and decommissioned 11 months later. On March 1st, 1959, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Registry and five months later, the Union Minerals and Alloys Corporation of New York City purchased and scrapped her at their Vigor Shipyard.